Hey, I am using an ABS Vario pack here in Alaska. I've heli'd with the 30 liter and the 15 liter zip-on packs. The 30 liter was pretty baggy unless you filled it to the brim, and if you did that, the weight would then be quite far from your back. I decided to use the 15 liter exclusively as it is a much nicer set up for riding in.
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2005 8:43 am Posts: 75 Location: SL,UT
ABS Vario with the 18L Ultralight pack and carbon canister. I really like it, carries nicely even with the additional weight I think it rides better than either of the Avalung packs I've owned. The weight of the airbag system is kept close to the body. I like the option of different size packs, though the 18L has been perfect for me for our typicaly quick Wasatch tours. I'm not one to carry a ton of crap in my pack like some though.
_________________ Winter is coming...
Various Chimera prototypes TLT5/Dynafit/Phantom 32 ULs/Blaze LT
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:24 pm Posts: 162 Location: Salzburg / Austria
Two years ago I considered buying either an ABS Vario pack or a Snowpulse pack and decided for the Snowpulse Lifebag 30L for these reasons: - better, closer fit to my back, keeps weight closer to the back - better backpack itself in terms of mounting possibilities (although ABS packs have improved in the meantime) - protection for head and neck because of special design of airbag - higher likelihood for the head to be on top of the snow (and me breathing therefore) because of special design of airbag
Nevertheless, a huge advantage of the ABS packs is their Vario system.
Joined: Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:51 am Posts: 105 Location: Calgary, AB
I use the ABS Vario as well. 15L for short couple hour tours. 50L for longer tours. Weight is well distributed, and lots of room for all your stuff in either bag. I found I just had to be a little creative with the 15L had some extra straps sewn on the outside
I used to have a 15L ABS airbag pack, an old model (before the VARIO models), made for backcountry snowboarders (all the hardware to properly carry the board on the back was provided) - it was of a pretty good quality but way too heavy. Since I moved to 100% splitboarding for bc (no snowshoes anymore), I bought a VARIO freeride with 2/8L, 15L & 20 L volumes (Since ABS moved to VARIO lines, they separate the base (that holds the airbag mechanism and the actual pack) and the volumes (stuff you zip on the base depending on what you're going to carry). That's great coz the base is ~700 EUR and the volumes are ~50 euros - you can actually have many packs depending on what you're going to do...
The vario freeride with 2/8L is what I use most of the time, when going off piste at the resort, it's very slim (great for chairlifts), pretty light (2.3kg with the carbon bottle), I can fit my shovel/probe perfectly.
I also use the 2/8L for small tours (less than 3hours uphill with no extra hardware (ice axes, boot crampons etc.) needed), I can fit my safety equipment, skins, gloves, ski crampons, 3-parts poles as well as a little water and food inside, the more stuff you put, the more the bag stretches, still it stays slim and going downhill doesn't feel like you carry your whole house on your back (it actually feels like normal freeriding at the resort! - some people even wonder where I come from as I look like a regular snowboarder with no touring equipment)
The 15L is great for a whole day expedition (I can carry more water/food and put some extra clothing/equipment). Still, it feels pretty good going downhill, the bag sticks well to your back and doesn't bother you much.
The 20L is kind of awkward, it looks like a Frankenbag, the vario freeride base is too small so they extended the bag on the top - I seldom it use anymore since I got the 15L volume. This volume is to be used when you've got lots of stuff as it has to be entirely filled to properly hold your gear, and 20L is a bit small for an overnight expedition (it can be done but half of your stuff will be on the pack, not inside).
If you're into more serious stuff (multi-day expeditions), check the VARIO (not freeride) lines, the bags are higher and you have more volume choices (up to 50L - even 70L for ski patrols...).
The only minus since they moved to VARIO is the quality - it much lighter, that's true but it looks much less "long lasting" - you can replace the volumes as they're cheap but I don't think that the base will be in perfect condition after 5 years of heavy use (my old ABS bag did not age a bit after 4 years!)
In Europe (I mean France/Switzerland/Italy/Austria ) the ABS bags are the norm, ski patrols use this system, you can easily find capsules in most of the well know resorts. Last year we saw the snowpulse system but it didn't sell well, it looks unnecessarily complicated and unsafe. The reason ABS moved to an explosive handle is that a cable (as used in the snowpulse system) can freeze under certain conditions - ABS has 2 ballons, snowpulse only one - bad if you make a single hole... The only good thing about snowpulse is that you can recharge the canister the same way you recharge scuba tanks... Another thing about snowpulse is they're on sale only 2 years after entering the market (and huge sale, you can get them for less than 1/2 the price...), I don't think they'll get much market share if they don't improve their product!
The really thing that sucks with those bags is the price : EUR 800 ($1100) for the base and a volume is WAY too expensive, but they seem to work pretty well - I still see too many skiers dying under a few feets of snow every year around here - most of them would have survived with such a system...
I'm interested in the Mammut as well...but am holding off because on their website they state that in Fall 2012 the system will be available and interchangeable with different packs for different applications. My money will be on a system that allows me to change up between light daypack and larger (40+L) pack that I can pack some kites in...